Understanding the Law
September 9, 2005

Protecting and promoting literary and artistic works

The need to protect and promote literary and artistic works was recognized internationally since 1886 in the Treaty of Berne. How effective has been the protection?

In the United States, the film, recording, publishing and software industries provide billions of dollars to those creators of intellectual property all because of copyright protection and there is no doubt of the joy, happiness and entertainment that artistes bring to their consumers.{{more}}

The support, financially and otherwise encourages them to improve and produce even better work. However, producers and artistes in our region continue to complain of the losses they suffer because of the pirating of their work. In an article captioned “Piracy killing Caribbean music” in a local newspaper dated August 14, 2005 the writer said that Caribbean musicians were losing 50 percent of their revenue because of piracy. This article proposes to look at the provisions and protection that are given by the Copyright laws in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Copyright Act, Number 21 of 2003, protect the creators of books, novels, musical pieces, poems, plays, newspapers and paintings. They also protect what WIPO calls “related rights”. These include sound recording, performances of performers, broadcast by radio or television and cable programmes.

Our laws provide copyright protection for seventy-five years after the death of the author. In that way the heirs of the author can also benefit. Anyone who wants to reproduce (and it is not unusual for film makers to use the content of a book to produce a movie) has to obtain the permission of the author.

Those items which are considered under related rights are protected for 50 years after the end of the year of first publication. There is no denial of the benefits that copyright can bring to the creator of works and to a country as a whole. The gains are economic as well as social. Other persons would be encouraged to create when they could see realizable benefits. I am certain there will be others following in the footsteps of Kevin Lyttle in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

There are no provisions for the registration of copyright material in SVG although this is done in some countries for example the United States of America where a copy of the work has to be deposited at a registry.

Copyright comes into effect immediately on the creation of the item and registration is not absolutely necessary. The copyright owner or the “rights holder” as he or she is called has the exclusive right to deal with his or her work as he or she sees fit. He could assign or give licence and obtain a royalty. In the United States many creators transfer their rights to companies which have the expertise to deal with them and receive some form of compensation in return.

The difficult task of managing and keeping check of creative works once they are released to the public is well recognized. Most often the artiste lacks the financial and legal means to manage his work. The law provides for the setting up of management organizations or societies which could provide the administrative and legal expertise for the artistes.

If anyone infringes the copyright of a rights holder, action could be brought in Court against the infringer. If the rights holder discovers the offending copies, he or any person he authorizes could seize the counterfeit work. Before the seizure the police must be informed of the time and place of the proposed seizure.